Perspective

Rest in peace. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Perspective

True Meaning of Paganism

THE TRUE MEANING OF PAGANISM
by Ryan Stone

Cernunnos "The Horned One"
Cernunnos “The Horned One”

The word “paganism” has come to refer to various pre-Christian religions belonging to a number of ancient cultures—those from Greece, Rome, Egypt, Scandinavia, and so on. It has come to also represent, in some circles, the modern ideology of Wicca and the followers of revived versions of the old practices. The truth about “paganism”, however, is that it is a historically inaccurate phrase in the context of these aforementioned faiths. Although it is now the accepted term for these religions, it is important to examine where the word truly came from and what it initially meant, allowing for a better, all-inclusive understanding of the world’s religious past.

The term “paganism” was revived during the Renaissance when writers were trying to differentiate the old traditions from their contemporary Christian faith. The term itself stems from the Latin paganus translated loosely along the lines of “country dweller” or “rustic”; thus it was initially a word describing a person of locality rather than a religion. However, because of its usage in ancient texts, medieval authors mistakenly believed it referenced a religious sect and thereby gave it the corresponding connotation. In actuality, there was a different word used to describe the “pagans” as they are called today, and that word too stemmed first and foremost from the location of the religious supporters.

According to scholar Peter Brown of Princeton University, “Hellene” was initially utilized in place of “paganism”. “Hellene” was a reference to Ἕλλην (Hellas), the native ancient Greek name for what is now called Greece. Brown explains that when Christianity started making appearances in the eastern communities, “Hellene” was used to differentiate the non-Christians from the Christians. Those from Hellas tended to remain faithful to the old religions, but with the strife between Judaism and Christianity beginning, the Jewish faction needed to ensure they were not incorrectly associated with them. As they were not from Greece, “Hellene” became the perfect title.

Ancient Temple to Zeus
Ancient Temple to Zeus

In the Latin west, it was more common for the various religions to refer to themselves by their ethnic origins rather than by the gods they worshipped—they simply referred to themselves (in their own language) as Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, etc., simultaneously insinuating their religious factions as well. This form of labeling was largely due to the fact that the political and religious aspects of life were a unified entity. Thus, the tradition of ethnic titling appears to have been continued by the early Christians. As far as ancient sources can tell, it wasn’t until the Late Roman Empire that the term “pagan” began to be used instead, as it was an easy way to lump all the non-Christians together in conversation, decrees, etc. It rose to popularity as a matter of convenience rather than of accuracy and respect.
It is important to note that “paganism” is not intended to differentiate the polytheistic religions from the monotheistic. The number of gods does not apply to the term because many so-called “pagans” would have not considered it important to differentiate themselves based on the number of gods they worshipped. Followers of the ancient religions did not necessarily have anything against Christianity based on its preference for a singular deity—many cults within each sect had a primary deity at the center of the religion, beneath which subordinate deities were also worshipped. “Paganism” as a title was intended only to reference the non-Christians (and the non-Jews), isolating them into one solitary category that could be more easily destroyed and replaced.

The Triumph of Civilization
The Triumph of Civilization

This effort of combining all non-Christian religions under one umbrella was, in fact, a clever strategy by the early Christians to remove the “pagan” faiths altogether. Using the Norse traditions as an example, the Vikings of the early medieval period had no true name for their religious following. In truth, the word religion would have been an unknown, foreign term to them. The Nordic tribes preferred the word “customs” as—like the Greeks and Romans—their rituals, beliefs, and traditions were undefined and fluidly interpreted, orally passed down rather than rigidly studied. There was no all-encompassing word for the belief in the Aesir and Vanir, and the various other beings and deities the ancient Norse worshipped, and there was no written text discussing their practices until the Christian author Snorri Sturluson wrote their mythology down in the 13th century.

A runestone from Sweden
A runestone from Sweden

According to Gareth Williams in Viking: Life and Legend, what is now considered the Norse religion is actually the “legacy of the Christian missionaries”, their textual product a “concentrated target” that is much easier to remove and erase than the amalgamation of gods liberally worshipped. Consolidating the various Norse—and every other “pagan”—tradition into a simplified faith with recorded rules and codes provided the early Christians with a more straightforward target to remove and replace.
Though the phrase “paganism” is widely used to describe followers of the various ancient religions, it is important to understand from where the term originates and the misconceptions behind its usage. Too many centuries have passed now—the word “paganism” will continue to label these supporters despite its original meaning. But it is never too late to be informed of the origins of the term, thereby allowing a better comprehension of the history of the ancient followers.

Bibliography
Brown, Peter. Late Antiquity: a guide to the postclassical world (Harvard University Press: Massachusetts, 1999.) s.v. “Pagan”.
Cameron, Alan G. The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011.)
Davies, Owen (2011). Paganism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press: New York, 2011.)
Robert, P. & Scott, N. A History of Pagan Europe (Barnes & Noble Books: New York, 1995.)
Swain, “Defending Hellenism: Philostratus, in Honour of Apollonius,” in Apologetics, p. 173
Williams, Gareth, Peter Penz, and Matthias Wemhoff. Vikings: Life and Legend (Cornell University Press: New York, 2014.)
York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion (New York University Press: New York, 2003.)

http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/true-meaning-paganism-002306

True Meaning of Paganism

Turning Positive

Dear Compassionate Gardener, how do I keep negativity, bad news and bad vibes out of my life? I’m trying to do a 180 turn and find the right path for me. How long did it take you?

Great question! Thanks for asking. My intention is to keep this blog straight-forward and simple so I’ll let those two principles guide my response.

Your question sounds like you are changing…or at least wanting to change. Congratulations! My years have taught me repeatedly that we’re always changing. Its all about change. I’ve come to believe resisting change is one source of suffering (Buddha thought so too). Bluntly: its all change. Sometimes change hurts.

I truly think and feel that living is change. Its kind of like we’re created to change…born to change…live to change…and die to change as well.

Change is a process. While catastrophic events can initiate change, most of us change one moment at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time. Pretty soon, those days turn into weeks, weeks into months…and alas…I’m changed!

I change. You change. Everything changes – including our relationships with ourselves, each other, our jobs and our environments.

I counsel that baby steps of change are just fine. They also tend to produce less dramatic results. As I’m allergic to drama…gradual change is OK for me. Think: ITS ALL PROCESS. One action…one reaction at a time.
Embrace change. Resistance is futile.

Psychologists suggest that awareness is the first step of change. So you might begin by asking: What needs to change?

Recognizing the negativity and its pervasive allure is not good for us is a big change for many because its counter-cultural.
Once recognition of the extent of negativity happens…it can be a bit of a jolt because we’re overwhelmed with negativity but we didn’t really understand its scope or its depth. This stuff is overwhelming.

For me negativity and fear are almost always hand in hand. That’s a toxic friendship.

Clarify your values. What is important to you today? Write it down. Start small. The list is going to change. Expect the change…add/subtract to the list as you go. I keep several lists in my smart phone: values list, goals list, forgiveness list, peace list. They’re there when I need to remind myself.

While I continue to judge myself (sometimes too critically), I work daily to stop judging others. This is very hard for me. I grew up in a family, religion and profession that not only values evaluations and judgments…judging was rewarded and reinforced repeatedly. We live in a judgmental world.
Less judgment…more acceptance is a value. Tolerance is a value. Compassion is a value. Forgiveness is a value. Live and let live is a value. We are one is a value. We are all interrelated is a value. Let your values be your guide.

Change is an inside process that manifests outside.
External changes that are not mirrored internally are smoke and mirrors. I call that calling a spade a spade. My sister who is developmentally challenged would look at me and simply say: “Bryan, it is what it is.” She’s right.

Knowledge is power. Use Google. Sift through the propaganda for accurate, reliable and accountable information. Once I truly began to really understand the methods and affects of the American diary industry… justifying my milk or cheese consumption became increasingly more difficult. Its called cognitive dissonance. It’s a real social psychological construct and it is VERY powerful if you pay attention to it. (Think: Psych 101’s Leon Festinger).

Ask questions. It’s always wise to ask: who says so? Challenge responses.

Recognize what you can change. Release what you cannot change. Think small bites… or else you will choke.

Pay attention. Wake up. Don’t believe everything you read. Fox News is not divinely inspired. All media is about the spin. That’s the way it is.
Avoid complicated.
Practice gratitude every single day. Then practice forgiveness everyday.

Whenever possible imitate nature.
We are integrally interconnected with nature. We’ll never control nature. We are nature.
Consistently move toward the path of least resistance. Think rivers…think flow.

Be prepared to recognize that the opposite may also be true.

Stop hanging out with negative people. This is really hard for some. Its a choice and you get to decide. I prefer to be alone than mingle with toxicity.

Some really quick “get down” suggestions to consider:
Sell or donate your television. If you choose to keep it, choose not to watch it one day a week.
Limit social media including email to short intervals. Use a kitchen timer or your smart phone alarm if that helps.
Mute your cell phone during meals and stop paying attention to it during conversations. Just do it!
Host a pot luck dinner. Suggest a discussion theme that matters to you or invite a guest speaker or facilitator. Check out who shows up.
IDEA: There is a World Water Day Event coming up next month. Host a potluck and talk about water…not in Africa…in Lake Mead.

Keep your response to negativity immediate and local. Its very easy to get caught up in the escalation of visions and voices of hate broadcast 24/7. Acknowledge it. Release it. Ask gently: What can I do right here and right now to mitigate that negativity. (This relates to one of my motivations to post “Good News” pieces on social media every single day. Believe me, some days it ain’t easy to find good news).

Embrace the principle that less is more.
Decrease distractions. (Why am I so attracted to minimalism). De-clutter. Don’t stop with your clothes closet or dresser drawers. Release stuff.

Silence is my friend. Drive more in silence. Sit more in silence at home. Walk or run in silence. While I have nothing against music… silence speaks.
There is a time and place for everything.
Speaking of silence, listen more…to yourself and to others. Rehearse less.
Get back to nature repeatedly. This is huge. Don’t let is sound trite. Embrace the Mojave Desert. See the sky. Look at the moon. Discover Spring emerging all over.

Be mindful. Google “mindfulness.” Lots of people write books about it. Enough said.
Remember that past experience filter present perception.
There is a huge difference between “news” and “opinion.” I filter all opinion pieces and editorials through my own criteria. I learn to trust some. Reject others as simply not for me to read, listen to or pay any attention to.
If it pisses me off…why am I doing it?

Surround yourself with people who are open to you, new experiences, new perceptions and new opportunities.

Teach yourself to care more deeply about what matters while paying less attention to what doesn’t matter.
Say out-loud: It doesn’t matter to me.

Can I flip this person, place or thing to a positive? If not, I release it.

Let it go = delete!
Erase. Use whatever mental imagery works best for you… find it and use it. You will probably need to do this more than once. Repetition works. You might have to do it 74 times a day. It doesn’t matter. Just do it.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. In fact, change affects many things on many levels directly and indirectly.
Change in patterns yield different patterns.
Change in habits witness new habits.
Change in attitudes bring new perspectives.

Trust your intuition. What’s your instinct saying? Most of us manifest feelings in our abdomens or chests. For some, this will mean think less…feel more.

While I may be in the minority, I find satire and sarcasm distasteful, not useful and poor communication. I avoid it.

Your “180 turn” is more likely to look like gradual movement just a few degrees at a time. That’s OK. Even 90 degree right angle changes can jolt the hell out of you. The very fact that you can ask the question about change…suggests you are changing.

Quick story: The notion of “unspeakable horrors” knocked me over the head with a “2X4” while writing a paper in seminary last year. In the middle of the night with thoughts flowing freely, sentences forming and paragraphs coming together…suddenly I stumbled on the quote “unspeakable horrors.” I was typing furiously, thoughts racing…and I became very angry. The words confronted me out of a complacency. I became intensely preoccupied with defining and understanding how any horror could be considered unspeakable. The words didn’t mean anything anymore. If a person can do it…a society has the responsibility to not only talk about…but to also deal with it. This single moment was a turning point for me in my life and in my ministry. The realization is still affecting my life, my choices, my actions.

My ministry teaches me daily that the loss of a love through death is a transformational experience for many. My own father’s death, the sudden death of my best friend and the death of my favorite pet – all were profound moments of change for me.

As always, its up to us to decide whether that change is for the better…or for the worse.

Believe that little shifts in values, responses and reactions can and do have impact both short and long term impact. Think ripple affect.

Remind yourself that bad news, gossip, awful events, tales of horror and evil stories are poison.
Daily, I filter out TMZ, Fox News, apocalyptic predictions and terror propaganda. I choose not to pay attention to it.

On an index card in my bathroom, I read: “You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.”

Several cautions:
Caution #1: My experience is not your experience. My path is not your path. What works for me may not work for you.
Caution #2: Change will affect your relationships on more levels than you expect. That can be painful.
Caution #3: At least someone in your life will accuse you of overdosing on Prozac or being Pollyanna delusional. So be it.
Caution #4: Never forget there’s always two sides to every story.

Final thoughts:
Whenever possible…and it’s always possible: Consider peace instead.
Change hurtful thoughts to compassionate thinking every time even when its very hard to imagine or feel.
Change what you can change. Make peace with what’s left.
Remember that I create my experience. I can control my experience. I can change my experience.
It’s really helpful to find a way to “meditate” or ‘pray” or simply be in the presence of what you consider Sacred habitually. Daily is optimal. Weekly is a start. Nothing fancy or complicated. Quiet. Peaceful. Whether it looks like jogging, Yoga, Zen meditation or watching trees in the wind – be mindful.

Two resources I’ve read many times and frequently refer to:
Buddhist Boot Camp by Timber Hawkeye
Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky

Turning Positive

Anthem

Michelangelo

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

~Lyrics by Leonard Cohen

“The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.”

Anthem

The Divine Masculine

Volumes are written about the contemporary rise of the Sacred Feminine – a cross-cultural, trans-religious movement that honors the female… as Goddess and Universal Mother (think: Isis, Aphrodite, Shakti, Eve, Virgin Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, etc).

I’m suggesting there’s also a new masculinity paradigm that’s emerging. While its origins are spiritual… its manifestations can be seen, heard and felt from prophets of our times… our artists and our mystics.

Think about it.

I believe the new Divine Masculine is beginning to be widely embraced by most women in search of a mate (as opposed to a sex partner). I’ll also contend that this same emerging norm excites some more avante-garde men; terrorizes other more traditional insecure men…however, still the majority of American men are blind, deaf and numb to who they are and who they might yet become. I am not sure that’s the case for European or South American men…but this might all be changing.

As I remember back, it seems like I’ve honored the rise of the Sacred Feminine since I was a boy smack in the middle of the tumultuous 1960’s…in the days of mass protests and angry rioting when millions of Americans took to the streets demanding change – in civil rights, Vietnam and for America’s poor (those days before Fox News, smart phones and social media).

Now my maturity has shown me that my parents raised me to respect women. As women are empowered to be who they are and speak their truth… men need to catch up. This is the stuff of a cultural revolution that goes vastly beyond whether we are ready for a female President or women priests.

Its important to note that my contention that the Sacred Masculine is emerging does not in anyway dilute, cloud or adulterate the Sacred Feminine. No… indeed, I sense that it’s the Sacred Feminine that has conceived, nurtured and birthed the very possibility that a new Sacred Masculine paradigm might emerge. Mothers are transforming our culture…perhaps they always have.

My sense is that the rise of the Divine Masculine will have a profound affect on gender roles beyond male and female, sexual orientation beyond heterosexual and homosexual, economic models beyond competition and cooperation and family cultural units beyond male fathers, female mothers – frankly well beyond who marries who – yes… even what marriage will or won’t look like or mean (e.g polyamory).

The emergence of a new Divine Masculinity should not be confused with the black and white, more traditional moral absolutes of right and wrong. No. The Divine Masculine is not concerned with telling men how to behave. This new focus is gray… very blended. As always, it will take time for ethics to catch up (e.g. medical ethics still playing catch up with the right to die, 3 parent embryos and stem cell research).

Take a moment to look…listen…feel…the new emerging masculine paradigm. Do you see it? Can you hear it? Have you felt it?

I’ll suggest that the rise of the Divine Masculine is connected with the ways some mothers are choosing to raise their sons. Food for thought.

2 more thoughts from my meditation for your consideration:

Moms, please reconsider sending your sons off to war. Might there be other more creative ways for young men to serve and protect? (This being said… I am first to admit that we have witnessed enormous evolutionary gains by allowing women and homosexual people to be warriors). Moms could raise peacemakers.

Secondly, perhaps its time to reconsider the whole pink and blue mystique. Maybe the color purple has more to offer than we thought? Imagine a world in which boys are completely free to play house…and girls are encourage to master STEM courses.

This topic will be a recurring blog theme as it reflects many of the energies of my ministry right now. As always, I welcome your feedback. While I recognize its nontraditional focus, people that I minister to are teaching me that the “status quo” is spontaneously readjusting.

Whether we talk gender roles, our spectra of sexual orientation/sexual behaviors or coexisting in community, with other sentient beings in sync with our environment – we are all one and its ALL interconnected.

Namaste!

The Divine Masculine

Coexist

When I read or hear too many self-righteous words quoted in the name of God. I ache that the visions and voices of religious people use their sacred texts to justify their fear, anger and hatred.
Words attributed to God manifesting as intolerance, exclusion and condemnation are unholy weapons of mass destruction murdering whole countries across our uncommon ground.

Brother to brother violence is evil.

Christians and Jews fight Muslims. Buddhists fight Muslims. Muslims fight Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus.
Religion has become a problem. I am too often ashamed.

Today, I resolve again to coexist. I choose to condemn less and be more kind.
I’ll quote no verse of any sacred text to justify my biased subjective perspective or half truths too often inseparable from my ego.
I recommit to listening without rehearsing my response.
Today, I’m more of the solution and less the problem. I pray I am not alone.

“There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions and no peace among the religions without dialogue.” -Hans Kung

“Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Coexist